Bennington College is a private, nonsectarian liberal arts college in Bennington, Vermont. The college was founded in 1932 to explore new approaches in higher education, including an emphasis on self-directed learning and hands-on experience in the field. Originally a women's college, it became co-educational in 1969. Bennington was the first college to include visual and performing arts as an equal partner in the liberal arts curriculum. It is accredited by the New England Association of Schools & Colleges.
|Endowment||US $ 33.8 million|
|Campus||Rural, 440 acres (1.8 km2)|
|Mascot||No official mascot|
The planning for the establishment of Bennington College began in 1924 and took nine years to be realized. While many people were involved, the four central figures in the founding of Bennington were Vincent Ravi Booth, Mr. and Mrs. Hall Park McCullough, and William Heard Kilpatrick.
A Women's Committee, headed by Mrs. Hall Park McCullough, organized the Colony Club Meeting in 1924, which brought together some 500 civic leaders and educators from across the country. As a result of the Colony Club Meeting, a charter was secured and a board of trustees formed for Bennington College. One of the trustees, John Dewey, helped shape many of the College's signature programs such as The Plan Process and Field Work Term through his educational principles.
In 1928, six years before the College would begin, Robert Devore Leigh was recruited by the Bennington College executive committee to serve as the first president of Bennington. Leigh presided over the forging of Bennington's structure and its early operation. In 1929 Leigh authored the Bennington College Prospectus which outlined the "Bennington idea."
The first class of eighty-seven women arrived on campus in 1932. The College was the first to include the visual and performing arts as full-fledged elements of the liberal arts curriculum. Every year since the College began in 1932, every Bennington College student has engaged in internships and volunteer opportunities each winter term. Originally called the Winter Field & Reading Period, the two-month term was described by President Robert Devore Leigh in his 1928 Bennington College Prospectus as "a long winter recess giving students and faculty opportunity for travel, field work, and educational advantages of metropolitan life." This internship was renamed twice, as Non-Resident term and, as it is called today, Field Work Term.
In 1934 the Bennington School of Dance summer program was founded by Martha Hill. Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Hanya Holm, and Charles Weidman all taught at this laboratory. The program gained attendance by José Limón, Bessie Schonberg, Merce Cunningham, and Betty Ford. In 1935 the administration agreed to admit young men into the Bennington Theater Studio program, since men were needed for theatrical performances. Among the men who attended was the actor Alan Arkin.
In 1951 the U.S. State Department issued a documentary on Bennington highlighting its unique educational approach as a model for the Allied rebuilding of German society after the War.
Built in 1959, the Edward Clark Crossett Library was designed by the award-winning modernist architect Pietro Belluchi. After opening, Crossett Library was featured in Architectural Forum and became a focus of study for many architecture students in the 1960s. Crossett Library went on to win the 1963 Honor Award for library design. In 1968, three new student houses were completed to help house the growing student population and were named in honor of William C. Fels, Jessie Smith Noyes, and Margaret Smith Sawtell. These houses were designed by the distinguished modernist architect, Edward Larrabee Barnes, who posthumously earned the 2007 American Institute of Architects Gold Medal. In 1969, Bennington became fully co-educational, a move that attracted major national attention, including a major feature story in the New York Times Magazine.
In 1993, the Bennington College Board of Trustees initiated a process known as "The Symposium." Arguing that the college suffered from "a growing attachment to the status quo that, if unattended, is lethal to Bennington's purpose and pedagogy," the Board of Trustees "solicit[ed]...concerns and proposals on a wide and open-ended range of issues from every member of the faculty, every student, every staff member, every alumna and alumnus, and dozens of friends of the College." According to the Trustees, the process was intended to reinvent the college, and the Board said it received over 600 contributions to this end.
The results of the process were published in June 1994 in a 36-page document titled Symposium Report of the Bennington College Board of Trustees. Recommended changes included the following:
Near the end of June 1994, 27 faculty members (approximately one-third of the total faculty body) were notified by certified mail that their contracts would not be renewed. (The exact number of fired faculty members is listed as 25 or 26 in some reports, a discrepancy partly because at least one faculty member, photographer Neil Rappaport, was reinstated on appeal shortly after his firing.) As recommended in the Symposium, the Trustees abolished the presumptive tenure system, leaving the institution with no form of tenure. The firings attracted considerable media attention.
Some students and alumni protested, and the college was censured for its actions by the American Association of University Professors, who said, "...academic freedom is insecure, and academic tenure is nonexistent today at Bennington College." Critics of the Symposium, and the 1994 firings, have alleged that the Symposium was essentially a sham, designed to provide a pretext for the removal of faculty members to whom the college's president, Elizabeth Coleman, was hostile. Some have questioned the timing of the firings, arguing that by waiting until the end of June, the college made it impossible for students affected by the firings to transfer to other institutions.
President Coleman responded that the decision was fundamentally "about ideas", stating that "Bennington became mediocre over time" and that the college was in need of radical change. Coleman argued that the college was in dire financial straits, saying that "had Bennington done nothing...the future of this institution was seriously in doubt." In a letter to the New York Times, John Barr, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, asserted that Coleman was "not responsible for the redesign of the college...It was the board of trustees".
In May 1996, 17 of the faculty members terminated in the 1994 firings filed a lawsuit against Bennington College, seeking $3.7 million in damages and reinstatement to their former positions. In December 2000, the case was settled out of court; as part of the settlement, the fired faculty members received $1.89 million and an apology from the college. In the immediate wake of the controversy, for the 1994–1995 academic year, the college's enrollment dropped to a record low of 370 undergraduates, and the following year (1995–1996), undergraduate enrollment declined to 285. According to Coleman, a student body of 600 undergraduates was required for the college to break even.
As of 2015, the college reports a total enrollment of 755 students with steady increases in quality student applications. Bennington was also selected by The Princeton Review as one of the top colleges in America. Bennington College appeared in Princeton's 2018 Best Northeastern Colleges List, which includes the schools that it considers "...academically outstanding and well worth consideration in your college search." Bennington also appeared on Princeton's "Green Schools" list. Notably, Bennington was also featured in an article by Forbes as one of "Tomorrow's Hot Colleges" highlighting the institution's recent flourishing "...under bold, entrepreneurial leadership." 
Bennington continues to be spotlighted amongst the top 10 Colleges and Universities in the country earning recognition for:
In 2015 Bennington College announced a $5 million gift from the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation. The largest single gift ever awarded by the foundation has helped establish the Helen Frankenthaler Fund for the Visual Arts and provides support for all aspects of the school's visual arts program including curricula, facilities, programs, and faculty. In recognition of the gift, the visual arts wing of the college's 120,000-square-foot arts facility was renamed the Helen Frankenthaler Visual Arts Center.
|1928–1941||Robert Devore Leigh|
|1941–1947||Lewis Webster Jones|
|1947–1957||Frederick H. Burkhardt|
|1957–1964||William C. Fels|
|1965–1971||Edward J. Bloustein|
|1972–1976||Gail Thain Parker|
|1982–1986||Michael K. Hooker|
At Bennington, students receive graduate-style advising from a faculty member who assists with course selection, internship and job applications, graduate school preparation, and more. Bennington does not have traditional academic majors for undergraduate students. Instead, the Plan Process is an alternative to majors, which encourages students to lead their own education, rather than choosing from pre-existing paths.
Within the Plan Process, there are no required courses, so from the moment students arrive, they are free to begin crafting their plan of study to meet their interests and explore new fields. In their second year, students must submit an essay-style Plan proposal, which details their desired primary and secondary areas of study, a summary of their interests and previous coursework, and a framework for how their studies should progress to culminate in senior work in one of the existing disciplines (Society, Culture and Thought, Advancement of Public Action, Dance, Environmental Studies, Visual Arts, and others) Students then meet with a committee of faculty members and their academic advisor to review the proposed Plan and make any necessary changes. After their Plan is improved, students regularly meet with their advisor to choose relevant courses and meet again with the Plan committee each fall to discuss their progress towards completion. Because of the Plan Process, no two students at Bennington will graduate with the same exact mix of learning.
Field Work Term is a required annual internship program that gives students the opportunity to gain professional experience beyond the classroom before graduating. Field Work Term experiences often inform students' decisions about career planning and can even lead to job opportunities post graduation. Bennington is the only college that has required an annual internship for students since its founding.
Master's degrees offered: MFA in Writing, MFA in Dance, MFA in Music, and Postbaccalaureate Premedical Program.
Bennington College has a low-residency Master of Fine Arts program in writing. In 2007, The Atlantic named it one of the nation's best, and Poets & Writers Magazine named it one of the top three low-residency programs in the world in 2011. Core faculty has included fiction writers David Gates, Amy Hempel, Jill McCorkle, and Lynne Sharon Schwartz; nonfiction writers Sven Birkerts, Susan Cheever, Phillip Lopate, Tom Bissell, and George Scialabba; and poets April Bernard, Major Jackson, Timothy Liu, Amy Gerstler, Mark Wunderlich, and Ed Ochester. Poet Liam Rector founded the college's Writing Seminars. After Rector's death in August 2007, Sven Birkerts became acting director of the Writing Seminars and director the following January.
For students who have excelled in an undergraduate program in an area other than science and now wish to acquire the prerequisites necessary to apply to medical and other health-related professional schools, Bennington offers a one-year intensive science curriculum.
The program offers advising and support through and beyond the postbaccalaureate year during the medical school admissions process. Postbaccalaureate students are both recent college graduates and experienced professionals from many backgrounds advancing on to Dartmouth's Geisel School of Medicine, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, the University of Vermont, Yale and other prestigious medical and health profession schools.
The two year, four semester for MFA in Dance curriculum is designed for students who already have significant professional achievement and experience. Students work closely with faculty to advance their work and research, contributing to ongoing performances and workshops, as well as creating original work.
The MFA in Music program at Bennington allows students to do advanced work in composition or voice, working closely with Bennington's music faculty to design an individualized and largely self-directed program. Like the MFA in Dance, the program lasts four semesters.
The groundbreaking ceremony for Bennington College took place on August 16, 1931, and construction of the original Bennington College campus was completed by 1936. The Boston architectural firm, J.W. Ames and E.S. Dodge designed Commons, the 12 original student houses, as well as the reconfiguration of the Barn from a working farm building into classrooms and administrative offices. The original student houses were named for the people integral to the founding of the College. The campus was built by more than 100 local craftsmen, many of whom had been out of work since the stock market crash of 1929. The campus stretches 440 acres with main campus centered on 10 acres. There are 300 wooded acres, 15 acres of wetland, and 5 acres of tilled farmland.
94% of students live on campus. There are 21 student houses and all dorms are co-educational. Each dorm hosts a weekly "Coffee Hour" on Sunday evenings where students discuss campus and house issues together. There are also 15 staff/faculty houses.
Bennington College has a total undergraduate enrollment of 668, with a gender distribution of 32.9 percent male students and 67.1 percent female students. 94.0 percent of the students live in college-owned, -operated, or -affiliated housing and 6.0 percent of students live off campus.
The Silo is a student-run and produced journal of arts and letters at Bennington College. It has been published since 1943.
The Bennington Free Press is the student-run and produced newspaper of Bennington College. It has been published since 2003.
"Footnotes" is an academic journal created by the Student Educational Policies Committee, beginning in Spring 2016
Science and Medicine
Faculty has included Wharton and James biographer R. W. B. Lewis, essayist Edward Hoagland, literary critics Camille Paglia and Stanley Hyman (whose wife Shirley Jackson referenced Bennington College in her writing, particularly Hangsaman), rhetorician Kenneth Burke, former United Artists' senior vice-president Steven Bach, novelists Arturo Vivante, Bernard Malamud and John Gardner, trumpeter/composer Bill Dixon, composers Allen Shawn, Henry Brant, and Vivian Fine, painters Kenneth Noland, Mary Lum and Jules Olitski, politicians Mansour Farhang and Mac Maharaj, poets Léonie Adams and Howard Nemerov, sculptor Anthony Caro, dancer/choreographer Martha Graham, drummer Milford Graves, author William Butler (author of The Butterfly Revolution), economist Karl Polanyi and a number of Pulitzer Prize-winning and acclaimed poets including W. H. Auden, Stanley Kunitz, Mary Oliver, Theodore Roethke, Donald Hall, and Anne Waldman.
In 2017, Bennington College acquired the Robert Frost Stone House Museum through a gift from the Friends of Robert Frost. Robert Frost lived in the colonial era home in Shaftsbury, VT from 1920 to 1929, during which time he wrote many of his well known works including the poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening."
Frost was involved in the founding of Bennington during the 1930s, suggesting the use of narrative evaluations which became a core aspect of the college's academic process.
After acquiring the museum, the college intends to create educational opportunities for students with relevant areas of study to engage with the museum's resources.
Alan Wolf Arkin (born March 26, 1934) is an American actor, director, and screenwriter. With a film career spanning six decades, Arkin is known for his performances in Popi, Wait Until Dark, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Catch-22, The In-Laws, Edward Scissorhands, Get Smart, Glengarry Glen Ross, Thirteen Conversations About One Thing, Little Miss Sunshine, Sunshine Cleaning, and Argo.
He has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor twice for his performances in The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming and The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter. He won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Little Miss Sunshine and received a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his performance in Argo.Anne Ramsey
Angelina Ramsey (March 27, 1929 – August 11, 1988) was an American stage, television, and film actress. She portrayed Mama Fratelli in The Goonies (1985) and Mrs. Lift, mother of Danny DeVito's protagonist, in Throw Momma from the Train (1987). The latter film saw Ramsey nominated for a Golden Globe Award and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.Arnold Marshall Rose
Arnold Marshall Rose (July 2, 1918 – January 2, 1968) was an American sociologist and politician. He was elected to the Minnesota Legislature and to the presidency of the American Sociological Association (ASA). He held faculty appointments at Bennington College, Washington University and the University of Minnesota. He had a special interest in the study of race relations.David Moss (musician)
David Moss (born January 21, 1949 in New York City) is an American composer, percussionist and self-taught vocalist, founder of the David Moss Dense Band; co-founder and artistic director of the Institute for Living Voice, Antwerp. His performances are noted for their innovative style, multimedia approach and improvisation. Moss has lived in Berlin, Germany since 1991, when he received a fellowship from the prestigious Berlin Artist Program of the DAAD.Denise Provost
Denise Provost (born March 9, 1951 in Lewiston, Maine) is an American politician who represents the 27th Middlesex District in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and was a member of the Somerville, Massachusetts Board of Aldermen from 2000–2006.In the Massachusetts gubernatorial election, 2014, Provost endorsed Don Berwick for Governor of Massachusetts.Donna Tartt
Donna Tartt (born December 23, 1963) is an American writer, the author of the novels The Secret History (1992), The Little Friend (2002), and The Goldfinch (2013). Tartt won the WH Smith Literary Award for The Little Friend in 2003 and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for The Goldfinch in 2014. She was included in Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People" list, compiled in 2014.Holland Taylor
Holland Virginia Taylor (born January 14, 1943) is an American actress and playwright. She won the 1999 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her role as Judge Roberta Kittleson on the ABC drama The Practice (1998–2003). She is also known for her role as Evelyn Harper on the CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men (2003–2015).
Taylor's other notable television roles include the sitcoms Bosom Buddies (1980–1982) and The Powers That Be (1992–1993). Her film appearances include One Fine Day (1996), George of the Jungle (1997), The Truman Show (1998), and Legally Blonde (2001). She also wrote and starred in the solo play Ann, based on the life and work of Ann Richards, for which she was nominated for the 2013 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play.Justin Theroux
Justin Paul Theroux (; born August 10, 1971) is an American actor, comedian, film producer, and screenwriter. He is known for his work with film director David Lynch in Mulholland Drive (2001) and Inland Empire (2006), his starring role as Kevin Garvey in the HBO series The Leftovers (2014–2017) for which he was nominated for the Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Actor in a Drama Series in 2016 and as Tom in The Girl on the Train (2016).
He is also known as a screenwriter for films such as Tropic Thunder (2008) and Iron Man 2 (2010).Karl Polanyi
Karl Paul Polanyi (; Hungarian: Polányi Károly [ˈpolaːɲi ˈkaːroj]; October 25, 1886 – April 23, 1964) was an Austro-Hungarian economic historian, economic anthropologist, economic sociologist, political economist, historical sociologist and social philosopher. He is known for his opposition to traditional economic thought and for his book, The Great Transformation, which argued that the emergence of market-based societies in modern Europe was not inevitable but historically contingent. Polanyi is remembered today as the originator of substantivism, a cultural approach to economics, which emphasized the way economies are embedded in society and culture. This view ran counter to mainstream economics but is popular in anthropology, economic history, economic sociology and political science.
Polanyi's approach to the ancient economies has been applied to a variety of cases, such as Pre-Columbian America and ancient Mesopotamia, although its utility to the study of ancient societies in general has been questioned. Polanyi's The Great Transformation became a model for historical sociology. His theories eventually became the foundation for the economic democracy movement. His daughter, Canadian economist Kari Polanyi Levitt (born 1923 in Vienna, Austria), is Emerita Professor of Economics at McGill University, Montreal.Kiran Desai
Kiran Desai (born 3 September 1971) is an Indian author. Her novel The Inheritance of Loss won the 2006 Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Fiction Award.In January 2015, The Economic Times, India's leading business publication, listed her as one of 20 "most influential" global Indian women.Lucy Simon
Lucy Simon (born 1943) is an American composer for the theatre and popular songs. She has recorded and performed as a singer and songwriter, and is known for the musicals The Secret Garden and Doctor Zhivago.Mac Maharaj
Sathyandranath Ragunanan "Mac" Maharaj (born 22 April 1935 in Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal) is a South African politician affiliated with the African National Congress, academic and businessman of Indian origin. He is the former official spokesperson of the President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma.Michael Hooker
Michael Kenneth Hooker (August 24, 1945 – June 29, 1999) was an American academic who served as Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and President of University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and Bennington College.Michael O'Keefe
Michael O'Keefe (born Raymond Peter O'Keefe, Jr.; April 24, 1955) is an American film and television actor, known for his roles as Danny Noonan in Caddyshack and Ben Meechum in The Great Santini — for which he received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.Mitchell Lichtenstein
Mitchell Wilson Lichtenstein (born March 10, 1956) is an American actor, writer, producer and director.
The son of Isabel (née Wilson) and Roy Lichtenstein, he studied acting at Bennington College in Vermont.In Ang Lee's film The Wedding Banquet (1993), Lichtenstein played the partner of a gay Taiwanese man living in the United States who is forced to marry by his parents. Other credits include Streamers (1983). He produced, wrote, and directed the 2007 black comedy horror film Teeth, about the pitfalls and power of a girl as a living example of the vagina dentata myth. The film premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival to positive reviews.His film Happy Tears premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2009. His film Angelica has been selected to be screened in the Panorama section of the 65th Berlin International Film Festival.He is openly gay.Peter Dinklage
Peter Hayden Dinklage (; born June 11, 1969) is an American actor and film producer. Dinklage studied acting at Bennington College, starring in a number of amateur stage productions. His film debut was in Living in Oblivion (1995) and his breakthrough came with the comedy-drama The Station Agent (2003). He has since appeared in Elf (2003), Find Me Guilty (2006), Underdog (2007), Penelope (2008), Death at a Funeral (2007), The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008), X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017), which earned him his first Screen Actors Guild Award. In 2018, he appeared as Eitri in the Marvel Cinematic Universe film Avengers: Infinity War and Hervé Villechaize in the biopic film My Dinner with Hervé.
Since shooting the pilot episode in 2009, Dinklage has portrayed Tyrion Lannister on the HBO television series Game of Thrones, for which he won three Primetime Emmys from seven consecutive nominations. He also received a Golden Globe for the role in 2011.Princess Yasmin Aga Khan
Princess Yasmin Aga Khan (born December 28, 1949) is a Swiss-born Pakistani-American philanthropist known for raising public awareness of Alzheimer's disease.
She is the second child of American movie actress and dancer Rita Hayworth, and the third child of Prince Aly Khan, Pakistan's representative to the United Nations from February 1958 until his death in 1960.Stanley Edgar Hyman
Stanley Edgar Hyman (June 11, 1919 - July 29, 1970) was an American literary critic who wrote primarily about critical methods: the distinct strategies critics use in approaching literary texts.Sven Birkerts
Sven Birkerts (born September 21, 1951) is an American essayist and literary critic of Latvian ancestry. He is best known for his book The Gutenberg Elegies, which posits a decline in reading due to the overwhelming advances of the Internet and other technologies of the "electronic culture."
Birkerts was born in Pontiac, Michigan. He graduated from Cranbrook School and then from the University of Michigan in 1973.
Birkerts is Director of the Bennington College Writing Seminars and the editor of AGNI, the literary journal. He has taught writing at Harvard University, Emerson College, Amherst College, and Mount Holyoke College.
He lives in Arlington, Massachusetts with his wife Lynn. He has two children, Mara and Liam.
His father was noted architect Gunnar Birkerts.